After a Friday full of goodbyes I wasn’t ready to say, Saturday morning I left my beloved Segovia and headed to Madrid via bus. Once I navigated the oh so exciting Madrid metro system with my suitcase (that I am convinced has doubled in weight), I arrived at the Renfe station in Madrid in order to take the AVE (high speed train) to Valencia. Even though Valencia is 300 miles from Madrid, the whole trip only took an hour and a half. The train was really nice, and I had a beautiful view of the Spanish countryside during my trip.
Valencia is on the eastern coast of Spain and a little more southern. The city is located in the autonomous community of Valencia, and it is the third biggest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. Like Barcelona, they have their own regional dialect in addition to “normal Spanish” (Castilian), which is called Valencian. English is also widely spoken here, however, so if you’re not a Spanish-speaker this is definitely a city in Spain you could easily handle.
I’m staying at a hotel in the historical district of Valencia, which was easy to find from the train station. The real struggle was trying to turn on the lights in my hotel room. These sneaky Europeans with their conservation efforts have made it so that to get electricity in your room, you have to stick your room key into this contraption disguising itself as a light switch. Considering the phone call I made to the front desk, I’m pretty sure the lady in reception thinks I’m another dumb American!
After settling in my hotel room, I headed out to explore the surrounding area. Valencia is gorgeous! The main plaza is just a few blocks from me, and there are some neat stores and restaurants nearby. I had a nice Italian dinner and headed to bed early!
Once I sent my sister a text to let my parents know I was on my way to cross the street without looking both ways, take candy from strangers, and wear my “I’m an American, steal my money” sign… I headed across town to spend my Sunday at the amazing Ciudad de las Artes y Sciencias. The City of Arts and Sciences is a museum complex that I imagined to be like the Smithsonian, but that was actually infinitely cooler! Not only do the museums have incredible things to discover, the modern architecture of the CAS is so great you could spend several hours just exploring outside. From end to end the entire complex is 2 km long, but there is something like 7 km of walkways. There were plenty of people biking, taking a lunch break, or enjoying the scenery without paying to go into the museum.
The City of Arts and Sciences has 5 different parts: L’Hemisfèric (an IMAX theater), El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (a performing arts center), L’Umbracle (a landscaped walkway with art sculptures and plants), El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (a science museum), and L’Oceanogràfic (an aquarium). I walked through L’Umbracle and took some pictures before visiting the science museum.
The science museum, Museo de las Ciencias Príncipe Felipe, is hands-on and very interactive. It’s designed for kids and adults to play with and touch the displays. I spent 3 hours exploring some incredible exhibits: Foucault’s Pendulum, a Space Cadet School show, “Under a Full Sail” about wind and water patterns, Nobel Prize Winners, MARVEL superheroes, FC Valencia, and more. My psychology-major-brain liked “Bosque de Cromosomas” (Forest of Chromosomes) the best. This massive exhibit has 23 sections representing the human genome. Displays at each “chromosome” showed things like aging, vision, hearing, thermal imaging, bones, memory, water weight, nerves, fingerprints, pain, etc. Instead of just reading a big sign, you got to interact with each of the displays. For example, one area talked about how much water composes the human body, so you would stand on this scale that weighed you and then your corresponding water weight would gush into a big tube in front of you. There were screens where you could see your body’s thermal imaging, hearing tests, depth perception experiments, etc. This place should be a mandatory field trip for any kid!
After lunch, I went over to explore Oceanográfic, which is the largest aquarium in Europe. The entire time I thought about how much my nephew would have loved this place! There were 10 different sections of the park that showed various marine environments: Mediterranean, tropical zones, Arctic zones, oceans, etc. I think this aquarium was my favorite part of the day – it was SO impressive! They have over 500 species and 45,000 organisms in Oceanográfic. There were huge tanks you could walk through that made it feel like the ocean was surrounding you on all sides. I spent another 4 hours looking at all the fishies (as Day Day would say) and taking pictures at the aquarium – what an awesome day!
As you can tell, I’m definitely enjoying my stay in Valencia! Traveling alone is an interesting adventure, but I already think it’s something everybody should do at least once in their life! I’m having a great time exploring on my own (Wait a minute, that was wrong… I mean “I really wish my mom and dad were here with me!” :))